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Jul 19, 2007 10:02 AM

Cheese Tasting in Marin or Sonoma Co.?


We'll be driving through Marin and Sonoma counties soon on our way to the coast (gualala). I love cheese, and have always wanted to visit a cheese tasting room. Whether it's a farm, ranch, or local store with a good selection, I would appreciate your recommendations.


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  1. Marin French Cheese (Rouge et Noir) has tours but their cheese isn't very interesting.

    The "Sonoma Cheese Factory" is now just a deli.

    Andante's the best but she doesn't have tours or tastings.

    I'm not sure which of the following have tours or retail operations.

    Vella Cheese Company
    315 2nd St E, Sonoma, CA 95476

    Andante Dairy
    Petaluma, CA, USA, Petaluma, CA

    Marin French Cheese
    7500 Red Hill Rd, Petaluma, CA 94952

    Spring Hill Cheese
    4235 Spring Hill Rd, Petaluma, CA 94952

    Matos Cheese Factory
    3669 Llano Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95407

    Achadinha Goat Cheese Company
    750 Chileno Valley Rd, Petaluma, CA 94952

    Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.
    Point Reyes Station, CA 94956, USA, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

    Redwood Hill Farm
    5480 Thomas Rd, Sebastopol, CA 95472

    Yerba Santa Goat Dairy
    6850 Scotts Valley Rd, Lakeport, CA 95453

    Laura Chenel's Chevre
    4310 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA 95476

    Bellwether Farms
    9999 Valley Ford Rd, Petaluma, CA

    6 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Spring Hill has a very generous tasting at the farm. Don't know if there is a tour. Check out their butter if they have it.

      1. re: chowetta

        I've taken a group to Spring Hill for a tour by prior arrangement. Worth a call to see if this is still an option.

        Bodega Goat Cheese does a great tour. There's a small fee, but more than worth it for the experience and cheese tasting.

        1. re: Melanie Wong


          Bodega Goat Cheese
          Bodega, CA 94922, USA, Bodega, CA 94922

      2. re: Robert Lauriston

        >Marin French Cheese (Rouge et Noir) has tours but their cheese isn't very interesting.<

        I've been a fan of their Schloss cheese for a long time. I don't know of any other cheese like it. It's probably not for everybody, but you won't know unless you try it.

        1. re: Mick Ruthven

          The schlosskranz is also good. I think it's the same stuff in a different shape.

          1. re: Mick Ruthven

            I agree. Schloss and Schlosskranz are both good - but strong. There are some blues - notably the goat - that can be good, depending on aging.

            The regular Camembert, after enough aging, gets interesting. A bit grassy, not as earthy as a real French raw milk Camembert, but at least it's legal in the USA.

            You can self-taste everything, and they are helpful in the store (normally).

        2. Vella Cheese noted above is the real thing, meaning they make their own cheeses (and also sell other cheese). They're about two blocks off the Sonoma town square. I don't think they have a tour, but they're very friendly and generous with tasting. They specialize in Dry Jack (in two stages of aging) which has a lot more flavor than the normal "Monterey Jack". Their website is interesting.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Mick Ruthven

            Vella's at Ferry Plaza on Saturdays, so there's no need to drive to their Sonoma store to taste their stuff.

            Andante, Bellwether, and Matos are also at that market.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              >Vella's at Ferry Plaza on Saturdays, so there's no need to drive to their Sonoma store to taste their stuff.<

              I'm in Sonoma more often than at the Ferry Plaza on Saturdays :-)

          2. If you decide to go to Marin French Cheese note that it is not actually in Petaluma at all, but quite far out of town. We ended up missing the tour because the drive took longer than expected. Only five minutes late, but they wouldn't let us join. Did a little tasting in the gift shop and discovered that I don't like quark. (Despite the cool name.)

            6 Replies
            1. re: Glencora

              Don't write off quark based on theirs.

              MFC's only really good cheese is the Schlosskranz. The "camembert" / "brie" is passable if you age it for a few weeks, not much flavor but pleasantly buttery.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Marin French Cheese has a few other good cheeses. They've improved quite a bit in the past few years. Their Yellow Buck Chevre is very good -- it won the American Cheese Society's Best American Cheese award in 2005. I also like their Yellow Buck Camembert, the Schloss and Schlosskranz (a cheese that reminds me of the long lost New York classic cheese, Liederkranz,) and another award-winning cheese, their Chevre Blue.

                1. re: Nancy Berry

                  Something's wrong with those awards. Yellow Buck isn't bad but it's bland and boring compared with Andante's.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I really like the Yellow Buck Chevre -- note that this is a different cheese from the Yellow Buck Camembert. I think that you have to age it a bit or look for an older one in the store because they release their cheeses young.

              2. re: Glencora

                Call first too, I was there recently and they were not doing tours. They may have started them up again though. Just check before you go. Either way it's a good place to picnic with some cheese and wine. I liked their version of bleu.

                1. re: sgwood415

                  I've never had much luck getting tastes or information from the counter people at MFC. And it's all pre-packed so you get a choice of one or two sizes. So I long ago at random bought some schloss and liked it a whole lot and haven't strayed. On the other hand, I'm only up there halfway though a day-long bike ride so pretty much anything with calories is the most delicious thing I've ever eaten....

                  The picnic grounds are real nice and the store has everything necessary for a great lunch. It's precisely 9 miles west of Petaluma. I think the store closes at 4 but I couldn't find any indication on their website.

              3. Cowgirl Creamery has delicious artisan cheeses using local ingredients. They are at the far end of Pt. Reyes Station (and also in the SF Ferry Bldg).

                6 Replies
                1. re: asc339

                  DEFINITLY Cowgirl Creamery if you have the time to drive to Point Reyes, its about 30 minutes from Petaluma

                  1. re: fyoulady

                    I don't think Cowgirl Creamery is worth the drive. The place feels pretty much like the Ferry Building, bunch of upscale food shops including a cheese store. Sometimes you can look at them make cheese through a window.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Links to Cowgirl shops:

                      Cowgirl Creamery
                      80 4th St, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

                      Cowgirl Creamery
                      1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I agree. Cowgirl isn't set up for tasting, other than the few samples you might try before making a purchase.

                        Here's more about Petaluma Creamery, Spring Hill's retail operation in the town of Petaluma, or follow the links to more about the farm store. Looking at some stainless steel vats through a window at Cowgirl can't compare to the sights and sounds (and smells) of being on a dairy farm with goats or cows at Spring Hill or Bodega Goat cheese.

                        Petaluma Creamry
                        621 Western Ave, Petaluma, CA 94952

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I agree--certainly would not recommend a drive to Pt Reyes Station just for CG Creamery when they are right there in the Ferry Building. However, if visiting West Marin for the beaches. hiking, birding, etc. it is a great place to stop. (Same could be said for Hog Island Oysters, although in their case visiting the farm on Tomales Bay feels nothing like visiting them in Ferry Bldg.) By the way, Tomales Bay Foods, the place in Pt. Reyes Station that houses CG Creamery, doesn't really have a "bunch of upscale food shops", I would say. It has only a produce stand featuring locally-grown things, the Creamery stand, and then a deli counter now operated by Cowgirl Creamery which has pretty good stuff like Fra Mani salumi plus their own salads, sandwiches, meats, etc. And some wines. So, yes, more upscale than the local grocery or Toby's Feed Barn, but nothing at all on the size-scale of the Ferry Bldg. Or the upscale.

                          1. re: alfairfax

                            The Ferry Building's a lot bigger, true. Tomales Bay Foods felt to me like a smaller version of Rockridge Market Hall or the Alameda Marketplace.

                    2. My wife and I visited a shop in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, in the Jack London Village, two weeks ago. There was a cafe, an olive oil tasting room, and a couple of other shops. The cheese tasting area was in a corner of the cafe, and was led by a very knowledgeable cheesemonger. I'd recommend a visit.